Monday, 31 December 2007

Lists and resolutions - and the end of 2007

So the new year is upon us, and now we look forward to 2008. Only two years of this decade remain. I was impressed by what Seth Godin had to say about this:

Here's a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?
Many people will have to answer that question by saying, "I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing."

This is why I am so in favour of new year's lists. They get a bad name, but I think this is because of poor execution rather than anything else. Lists represent action and change. They are a tangible attempt to improve our future. In so doing, they symbolise hope. And without hope we are nothing.

So tomorrow my list. I hope you have one too.

In the meantime, Happy New Year.

Saturday, 29 December 2007


has the top bit of Bloom blog gone all funny? And why can't I fix this myself?

It's because I have extremely poor self efficacy in this area. In other words, I expect myself to fail, so I do.

I mention this and I was reminded in the brilliant book Meaning Inc of Rosenthal & Lenore's experiment about children’s expectations. Simply by telling children and teachers that they were being watched as 'high performers' they raised performance by 0.6 of a standard deviation - enough to catapult an average performer to the top echelons.

Meaning Inc goes on to ask whether organisations' high performance programmes are worth the effort. They may get 25% more from the top 5%, but at what cost to the 95?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Liverpool for Christmas

Back in the 'pool for Christmas. Went to see Liverpool play. Reds won 4-1. Had a pint with an old Scouser in a pub. Cost about a quid. Saw the folks. Talked about the neighbours caravan (really). Felt the urge to run back to London within about 5 minutes.

The problem with running from something is that it's not authentic. I fear ending up being back in Liverpool, but in the Liverpool of the early 1980s when unemployment was rife, my parents were screaming at each other and I was writing terrible poetry in my room.

But there isn't any chance of that. What I need to do is understand what role Liverpool plays in the narrative of my life, and acknowledge it.

My Mum was telling me a story about working in the libraries in Merseyside and Cheshire - places of great polarised wealth and opportunity. (Not the libraries so much as the counties). Bear with me on this one.

She was talking about serving the public and everyone was commenting on what a pain it must be. And I made a joke about some of the old bats that come in and say 'Gorrany Catherine Cooookson?' in a big Scouse accent, (cos I used to work there too and I met them). And my Mum laughed but then said 'Yes but I'd prefer them to the posh rude ones' and told us about a middle class woman who refused to pay her fine and was all rude.

And there it is. That's the bit of Liverpool's narrative that stays with me. I'd prefer that too, like my Mum. I'm on the side of the poor ones, the ones who'd give you a cup of tea with their last tea bag. The ones who like Catherine Cooookson.

I don't want wealth if it means I've done nothing in my life to help the underdog. I'm on their side, like it or not. It is part of my narrative, part of me.

And if that doesn't stay with me meaningfully throughout life, if I don't struggle to do something about it, then I've failed utterly.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Positive Psychology - 1

One of the key positive psychology interventions is to pay a gratitude visit. Whereby, you write a letter to someone who helped you explaining how they helped you and then deliver it in person and read it out.

So far, so Californian.

Anyway, I decided to try it out. It only occurred to me when Martin Seligman - the Father of Positive Psychology - sat behind me just before lunch. When the session finished I turned round and said something like 'Marty, can I pay you a brief gratitude visit?' and then launched into a speech about how his book, Authentic Happiness, essentially reconceptualised my understanding of what happiness is, and in so doing changed my whole life.

I would love to say that it was great but in truth it was just slightly awkward, probably for both of us. I think I'd prefer to be miserable.

Does positive psychology need translating for a British audience?

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Positive Psychology Conference

Last month I attended the Positive Psychology Conference at UEL, Docklands. it was an interesting day, with the following speakers:

Prof Martin Seligman, Authentic happiness: the pursuit of fulfilment at work
Dr Susan David, Yale University, Evidence-based emotional intelligence
Dr Alex Linley, Centre for Applied Positive Psychology, Leveraging business performance through strengths
Dr Gurnek Bains, YSC Consultants, The power of meaning in organisations
Dr Ilona Boniwell, University of East London, Positive psychology in business - from potential to action

More of the day follows. There are two observations I always have to make about positive psychology:

Its central premise, that happiness is so much more than an absence of unhappiness and that it therefore deserves scientific research, is beyond doubt.

But it then struggles to explain how to apply this practically, in either organisational, scholastic, political or even everyday settings.